Build Upper Body Strength With a Push-Up Progression

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When comparing lower-body strength pound for pound, female athletes can be as strong as men, but their upper-body strength often lags behind. Fortunately, you can easily close the gap with a few focused exercises.

Chest exercises like the Push-Up and Bench Press are great for strengthening your upper body—and improving your athletic performance. They strengthen your pec muscles, as well your shoulder and arm muscles, resulting in an overall increase in upper-body strength.

When you begin a new upper-body program—or any program—don't try to perform exercises beyond your strength level or training experience. If you can't do Push-Ups, don't attempt to lift a barbell loaded with weight. Doing so will reduce the effectiveness of your workout and put you at risk for injury.

Instead, follow the Push-Up progression below, which is specifically designed for women who want to increase their chest and overall upper body strength. Begin with the Kneeling Push-Up. Work up to three sets of eight to 12 reps. Once you achieve that, advance to the standard Push-Up and then finally to the Physioball Push-Up.

As soon as you can perform an exercise for the full three sets of 12 reps, progress to the next one.

Kneeling Push-Up

  • Assume Push-Up position with back flat, abs tight, knees on floor close together and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • Slowly descend, keeping elbows to sides and head slightly up, until chest is two inches above ground
  • Forcefully push up to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Push-Up

  • Assume Push-Up position with back flat, abs tight, feet close together and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • Slowly descend, keeping elbows to sides and head slightly up, until chest is two inches above ground
  • Forcefully push up to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Physioball Push-Up

  • Assume Push-Up position with hands on sides of physioball
  • Lower with control until chest barely touches ball
  • Drive up until arms are straight
  • Repeat for specified reps


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: STRENGTH TRAINING | PHYSIOBALL | PUSH-UP | CHEST | BENCH PRESS | EXERCISES | WORKOUTS | EXERCISE | BENCH | PRESS | INJURY | BARBELL | ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE